Even online, love's not fair

With Valentine's Day approaching, a forthcoming study by a Duke University researcher and several colleagues confirms what not-so-thin women and short, broke men have long suspected: They don't get nearly as much romantic attention as skinny women and tall, financially secure guys.

The study, still under peer review before publication, analyzed 22,000 online daters and found that women put a premium on income and height when deciding which men to contact, said Dan Ariely, a Duke behavioral economist who worked with University of Chicago researchers on the project.

For example, the study showed a 5-foot-9-inch man needs to make $30,000 more than a 5-foot-10-inch one to be as successful in the dating pool.

Men in the study showed strong preference for women with a body mass index of 18 or 19 - "which is slightly on the anorexic side," Ariely said. (A 5-foot-6-inch woman would need to weigh about 115 to fit that profile, according to the National Institutes of Health's online body-mass index calculator).

People nursing battle scars from bad online dating experiences might say the findings are hardly surprising. With the $1.1 billion online dating and matchmaking industry growing in popularity, researchers say dating sites' gigantic databases make fertile ground for study.

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